Iran has sentenced an alleged US spy to death, escalating tensions in a war of nerves between the Obama administration and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, an American of Iranian descent, is a former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was a translator.
Iran alleges he spied for the Central Intelligence Agency and was involved in terrorism. His father, a professor in Michigan and who was born in Iran, maintains that his son was visiting his grandmothers in Iran when Ahmadinejad’s security forces took him into custody.
He has 20 days to appeal his death sentence, which is Iran's latest slap at the United States following mutual threats over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has threatened to block the passageway to oil and gas tankers, a move that could strangle the economies of the United States and the entire Western world.
Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Martin Dempsey acknowledged this week that Iran has the capability to block the Strait for a short period of time but that the U.S. military would force it open.
The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran and has called on the Ahmadinejad regime to allow Swiss diplomats to visit Hekmati, who is 28 years old.
Last month, Iranian state television showed Hekmati confessing in Farsi and English that he worked for the CIA and was on a mission to infiltrate the regime’s intelligence ministry.
Hekmati’s family in Arizona stated, “Since his detention in August 2011, Amir's mother and family have made every conceivable effort to try to cooperate constructively with the Iranian government on the matter. Unfortunately our effort has been met with general silence and no reciprocity.”
The statement added that the former marine was represented by an Iranian government lawyer who met Hekmati for the first time on the first day of his trial.